Illinois vs. UNLV Preview and Live Game Thread

The Illinois Fighting Illini cagers return to the hardwood tonight to take on UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center in their first road test of the season. It’s a late tip off by Midwest standards, but I will be here live at 9:45 CST to talk with any Illini basketball fan that feels like dropping in and talking a little late night hoops.

Illinois comes in to this contest carrying a 5-0 overall record, fresh off a 24 point victory over a game Chicago State squad that saw Jon Ekey shoot 5-8 from 3 point range en route to a 19 point, 6 rebound performance. Speaking of Ekey, this will be his second crack at taking down the Runnin’ Rebels. Way back on 12/1/10, Ekey played 14 minutes in a loss, but did manage to register 3 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots in his limited amount of floor time.

UNLV will be playing its 5th game of the season, and all have been at home, but the Runnin’ Rebels haven’t fared as well as the Illini this season while posting a 2-2 overall record. Their first loss of the season was a 21 point setback at the hands of UC-Santa Barbara, and their second loss came in their most recent contest, an 86-80 defeat to Arizona State.

Nov 8, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UNLV Runnin

The Illini post players will face their stiffest test to date in this game. UNLV boasts the nation’s current  leading rebounder in junior forward Roscoe Smith (16.3 rpg), as well as the nation’s current second highest player in blocked shots per game in junior forward Khem Birch (5.5 bspg).

Smith’s last 2 games have been a bit of a coming out party to say the least. Against Nebraska-Omaha, Smith scored 17 points, pulled in 22 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots. In the loss to Arizona State, Smith posted another outstanding line with 18 points, 21 rebounds, and 1 blocked shot.

Despite everything Smith has done, Birch has been a beast in his own right this season. He has three double digit rebounding efforts in four games as he pulled down 17 in the opener, followed by 10 and 14 the past two games consecutively. While these are outstanding numbers, they are overshadowed by his shot blocking abilities. He has blocked 8 shots in each of his past 2 games, and has a total of 22 for the year.

Key to the game:

For Illinois to find success tonight in their first road game they are going to have to do their best to neutralize these two interior workhorses without getting in foul trouble. Before it’s all said and done, Illinois’ interior depth could play a major role in tonight’s game.

The Skinny: 

DATE: Tuesday, November 26, 2013
TIME: 7:45 p.m. PST
SITE: Tarkanian Court, Thomas & Mack Center (18,500), Las Vegas
TV: CBS Sports Network (Andrew Catalon, Steve Lappas, Doug Gottlieb) (DirecTV 221, DISHNetwork 152)

Remember to check back in tonight during the game and talk it over with me in the comments section below.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter @RPKraemer.

 

Topics: Illinois Fighting Illini, Jon Ekey, Khem Birch, Roscoe Smith

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  • @RPKraemer

    Nunn blew a bunny. Beautiful strip by Bertrand on the fast break though.

  • @RPKraemer

    Tate is a solid, solid PG. He is going to be very good by the end of his career at Illinois.

  • @RPKraemer

    15-5 run to start the half. Can’t ask for much more than that.

  • Austin Jabs

    really liking what im seeing out of the llini in the second half. made the right adjustments and on a nice run here

  • Austin Jabs

    nana for three…and i dont mean my grandma

  • @RPKraemer

    Egwu has a lot of pent up frustration from being planted on the bench most of the first half. Thorwing down oops and now drilling a 3.

  • @RPKraemer

    Double N – A, Double N – A – have a half big fella!

  • @RPKraemer

    Sosa finally makes his first free throw of the season because of course he does.

  • @RPKraemer

    Brand new game at the under 12 timeout. First team to 65 wins this one.

  • Austin Jabs

    im hoping this game keeps a nice fast pace…sleep is beginning to knock at my door….stupid time zones

  • Austin Jabs

    poor shot selection by ekey there

  • Austin Jabs

    joe bert needs to be ok…not just tonight but for the long term plan for the illini. looked to me like more of an ankle injury there, but came off clutching the right knee

  • Austin Jabs

    foul calling has picked up in the second half

  • Austin Jabs

    i expect johnny groce to fix the issues here in this timeout

  • Ricky Widmer

    This game feels like a tournament game. Cant wait for March!!!!

  • Austin Jabs

    circus shot there for unlv…

  • Austin Jabs

    the youth of the illini showing here…nice time for a time out

  • @RPKraemer

    Illinois down on the glass now. Need to wrestle back control of that category down the stretch. Rice going off tonight, but someone else needs to step up.

  • Austin Jabs

    too early for an I-L-L chant yet?

  • @RPKraemer

    Very pretty lefty finish for JoeTales

  • Austin Jabs

    ekey has to go to the rim on that

  • @RPKraemer

    Ekey is having one of those games. The shots just aren’t falling. 0-5 on the night.

  • Ricky Widmer

    YEAAAAAA BOYYYY!!!!!!!!!

  • @RPKraemer

    That was a big time comeback road win. UNLV can end up being a good win on the NCAA resume if they can get their halfcourt offense in order. Their D is pretty good.

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